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Mar 14, 2012 06:55 PM

Any differences between all the Frenchy's in Clearwater Beach?

I'm coming to Clearwater Beach for a conference in a few weeks, and I keep hearing Frenchy's is the ideal place to eat out there -- laid-back, beachy, relatively inexpensive seafood sounds great to me. (Of course, if anyone has any other suggestions, lay them on me!)

I see our hotel is closest to the Frenchy's South Beach location, and they all have a few different menu items, but are any significantly better than others, or is South Beach at least a good, representative Frenchy's location? I'll be traveling with a few co-workers who might not be as into food as I am, but I'm sure we'll all appreciate something good AND convenient after our long days.

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  1. I have only been to the Rockaway location (many times, at that), and have not been to the other locations. I understand there is an "original" location, and have friends who say it's "classic", but I can't imagine a better beach/barefoot atmosphere than the Rockaway location. The food is better than average for the area, but nothing will blow you away. What has usually pleased me the most at Frenchy's is the view, the cold beer, and the fried fish bites or fried grouper sandwich.

    I know there are other places out in Clearwater that usually get recommended, but I have not been to any that I thought worth the cost. The ones that come to mind are Salt Rock Grill and Island Way Grill. I've been to each once, and based on each visit, would not return voluntarily. Granted, these are places that are much more "upscale" than Frenchy's, but I mention them in case you would be considering those places based on recs on this board. Both are not cheap, and none of the seafood I had at either one was prepared well, or particularly fresh. Interiors are beautiful in that Florida way you see in magazines about Florida, but the food lacked precision or passion for me.

    I appreciate your constant Orlando posts, and hate to be so negative, but you seem to me to be a guy who likes to see his dollar go far, and I just don't think that will happen at very many restaurants in Clearwater (on the beach, anyway). FWIW, if you dropped me in Clearwater (on the beach) with $100 and told me I had to go eat somewhere, and told me nothing else about the circumstances, I'd pick Frenchy's, save the change, and eat at the Ravenous Pig the next night.

    Enjoy your trip.

    1 Reply
    1. re: Noice

      Thank you so much, Noice! I was just chatting with one of my co-workers about how excited we are about the trip, and especially about getting some grouper sandwiches and conch fritters and raw oysters on the beach.

      I am honored to stand out in the crowd of regulars on this board, and I appreciate your advice and candor. You're right about me seeking good values (not that I'm cheap... okay, maybe a little!), but none of us want to go anywhere upscale and have to get dressed up. Since we may or may not be reimbursed for our meals on this trip, I think Frenchy's is the perfect choice for us.

    2. I always go to Rockaway with out-of-town visitors. At one of the others (unfortunately I can't remember which), I had trouble with it being too loud to talk due to the music. Rockaway has live music sometimes but every time I've been there it has been good and not ear-splitting, indie rock stuff. Imo the food is better than average, a good value, and if you sit outside you are right on the beach (it's a nice beach). I figure I've eaten there 7-8 times.

      1. I tend to prefer the original for sandwiches, fish spread and a beer. It is small and can get crowded at peak times. Plus I've been going there since they opened.

        Rockaway has the beach view and wider menu. I find guests prefer it for - has a vacation vibe.
        I always find it ironic having a sit down meal there simply because it was once a dive bar where most local high school students obtained their first illicit beer...

        My sister prefers Saltwater. I've never tried the South Beach location - it is the newest and not at a part of the beach I frequent.

        Other spots:

        Nice beach bar atmosphere and good food a short drive south is Keegan's on Indian Rocks Beach.

        Close to there is Guppy's if you decide a nicer meal is desired.

        If you get tired of the beach and want another spot to stroll downtown Dunedin is perhaps 10 min. away. The marina is quaint with a nice view of the intercoastal and a small fishing pier. Don't eat at the restaurant (French) on the water.

        I enjoy Kellys, especially for breakfast. Nice for a drink and nosh too. Many love Sea Sea Riders.
        Several others located along a walkable strip of Main Street.

        1 Reply
        1. re: meatn3

          Last time I passed the original it was not small. I think they've taken over the entire strip

        2. Thanks again, folks. We had a nice trip to Clearwater Beach and a good conference experience. They provided many of our meals and snacks, but my colleagues and I ate at Frenchy's South Beach twice -- it was literally a few buildings away from our hotel, so we couldn't beat it for convenience. In fact, once I parked at our hotel, we didn't have to drive again until we left two days later. The hotel hosting the conference was only a ten-minute walk north up the beach, and I love not having to drive in unfamiliar locations.

          Anyway, I tried two different "Super Grouper" sandwiches on our trips to Frenchy's -- one Cajun-spiced and one breaded and fried. Both were good, but the batter was a little too greasy and overwhelmed the delicate taste of the grouper. I think a jerk preparation would have been better than either of those. Oh well, maybe another visit.

          Frenchy's conch fritters were among the best I've ever had, but I was disappointed they did not seem to have oysters on the menu, either raw or fried. I didn't get to try the smoked fish spread either, but I'm sure there will be other opportunities.

          My co-workers both got shrimp and crab salads for lunch the first day and grouper Oscar for dinner the second day, and they both loved their meals. The grouper Oscar looked and smelled incredible, but again, I would worry the Hollandaise sauce could overwhelm the taste of the fish.

          Thank you again for the recommendations and warnings, everyone. Next time I find myself on the Gulf Coast, I REALLY want to try Ted Peters' Famous Smoked Fish, but Frenchy's South Beach made for a perfect trip to Clearwater Beach.

          3 Replies
          1. re: Big Bad Voodoo Lou

            FWIW the South Beach location would be the 'last' location I'd recommend (sorry I didn't see your post sooner). To answer the original question the difference (IMO) is...

            1. Original - Best food. Great service. Down & dirty and has the spirit of the original Clearwater Beach, before mom & pop were over run by stucco condos. Smaller location, very local, and a little dark & crusty, in a good way.
            2. Saltwater Cafe - Still off the beaten path of Mandalay Ave and great food, just a little bigger and busier than the Original. Service still very good, I know employees who have been there for at least a decade. This will get a little more of the beach crowd, but still has a local feel and, (go figure), locals.
            3. Rockaway - Right on the beach so...beach crowd. a LOT of tourists and to me the food has been compromised because of it. Turn and burn and the food doesn't have to be as good because it's on the beach. Sure the grouper sandwich is still 'pretty good', or like you said Big Bad Voodoo Lou, "good, but the batter was a little too greasy and overwhelmed the delicate taste of the grouper". You pretty much summed up my answer in your own post, unfortunately you didn't get a chance to compare the other locations. Big difference to me. Having said all that (in all fairness), I haven't been to that location in years, nor have any of the locals I know. The only locals I can assume go there are the ones wearing Ed Hardy shirts.
            4. South Beach - I haven't actually been to this one because my assumption (and feedback from locals) is that it follows suit of the Rockaway location. It's also in a touristy area, but in all fairness the place that was there before (Britt's) to my understanding had a pretty good following, so I won't knock it too much on location. I probably won't bother trying this one considering your experience (the grouper sandwich at Frenchy's should read GREAT, not meh/good) and considering there are two excellent locations to get that GREAT grouper sandwich (in addition to other food).

            Hope that helps!

            1. re: rathersaucy

              Thank you for the recommendations and the trip down memory lane. This is useful, because I hope to bring my wife on a Tampa/St. Pete/Clearwater Beach long weekend later this year. I got us tickets to see the great Louis C.K. in Tampa, and I want to bring her to the Clearwater Aquarium too.

              My big Chowhoundish plan is for us to eat at Datz in Tampa, Ted Peters in St. Pete, and Frenchy's (whichever one is most convenient) in Clearwater, and maybe Mr. Dunderbak's in Tampa on our way back to Orlando.

              1. re: rathersaucy

                We've been coming to Clearwater Beach for about 30 years... didn't discover Frenchy's until about 18 years ago. We started out with Rockaway and loved it. Now that we usually come down twice a year, we've been trying all of the locations and now like the Original location the best. A pitcher of sangria, some fish spread and a grouper sandwich & we're set! Rockaway does tend to attract tourists for obvious reasons (beachfront location, view, sunset), however I agree that the food isn't nearly as good as the others. Second best would be Saltwater, followed by Rockaway and South Beach. For first-timers to Clearwater Beach, I'd still have to recommend Rockaway for a cocktail and appetizer at sunset, then head over to Original for the remainder of the meal.